A Virginia company that builds retirement homes has filed plans with Arlington County to construct a $15 million home for the elderly on the four-acre site of the Calvary Church of the Nazarene at Wilson Boulevard and North Manchester Street.

Less than a year ago, the Arlington County Board turned down a proposal by the Arlington Hospital Foundation to build a six-story retirement complex and small nursing home on the site, concluding that the project was unwanted by neighbors and generally too large for the surrounding residential area.

In contrast to the hospital proposal, the plan by Sunrise Retirement Homes has won approval from nearby neighborhood groups, which have voted to support it.

"They've basically done about everything right," said Keith Ellis, vice president of Boulevard Manor Civic Association, whose members live around the site.

Ellis said that Paul and Teresa Klaassen, founders of Sunrise Retirement Homes, which operates several retirement homes in Virginia, began meeting with residents last spring to work out a plan that was acceptable to the neighborhood.

"It's about half the size and it's serving a different population," said Ellis, comparing the current plan to the hospital proposal. "Because it's for frail elderly, you're dealing with very little traffic implications."

Sunrise Retirement Homes President Paul Klaassen said the project would serve elderly residents who can no longer live independently but who do not require full-time nursing care. Residents would live in an apartment-like setting, but would be provided with daily housekeeping and medication supervision. While residents would have the option of preparing some of their own meals, at least one hot meal would be provided for them daily.

"There are a lot of frail elderly who do not need institutional care," said Klaassen, who added that he sees "many people going inappropriately into nursing homes."

Klaassen said plans are to tear down the church and build three residential style buildings, containing a total of 176 units. While two four-story buildings would serve more independent residents, a smaller three-story building would provide the kind of care traditionally provided by nursing homes.

The church site is zoned residential, but Klaassen has applied to the county's Planning Commission for a special use permit. At the same time, he has applied to the county Board of Zoning Appeals for a variance.

Planners said the project would be only slightly taller than the current church building, but because Retirement home President Klaassen said that if the proposal is approved, the retirement home could be ready for operation in late 1989. He projected that the facility would cost residents $40 to $70 a day.

the site is on a hill, the county's zoning ordinance requires Klaassen to obtain a variance.

"What the Klaassens are proposing is what today Arlington County needs most," said Terri Lynch, director of the Arlington Area Agency on Aging.

According to statistics from the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, while Arlington's overall population was about 174,300 in 1970, its population is expected to drop to 156,000 by 1990. During the same time, however, the county's population of residents age 75 and older will have increased from about 4,600 to almost 10,000.

Lynch said Arlington has three nursing homes, one retirement home providing assisted living, and four subsidized apartment buildings for the elderly. All have waiting lists, she added.

Klaassen said that if the proposal is approved, the retirement home could be ready for operation in late 1989. He projected that the facility would cost residents $40 to $70 a day. He said about 5 percent of revenue would go toward a financial assistance program.

The proposal is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission Nov. 23 and the County Board Dec. 12.